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7/9/2010
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NTP Sues Apple, Google, Others Over Smartphone Patents

After claiming victory over BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion for patent infringement, NTP has filed suit against Apple, Google, HTC Corp. LG Electronics Corp., Microsoft and Motorola.

Its pockets still full from its $612 million patent victory over Research in Motion, serial patent infringement plaintiff NTP has filed patent infringement cases against most of the remaining giants in the mobile phone industry.

NTP filed new suits Thursday against Apple, Google, HTC Corp. LG Electronics Corp., Microsoft and Motorola in a federal district court in Virginia where it won the huge patent settlement against the maker of BlackBerry phones in 2006.

The latest NTP litigation raises the broader issue of the importance of patent trolls -- patent holding firms that contribute little or nothing to the advancement of an industry or technology -- while enriching themselves on the work of others. Patent holding companies maintain they are the rightful owners of their patents.

Since the RIM case, companies have tried to protect themselves against patent infringement litigation and have utilized other patent-holding firms like Intellectual Ventures, RPX and Allied Security Trust to provide cover.

RIM had hoped to make a major test case of its litigation with NTP and brought the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. However, the high court declined to hear the case.

After losing the NTP case, RIM tried to protect itself against future patent litigation by purchasing some assets of Nortel Networks, which held important CDMA and LTE patents. However, RIM wasn't able to complete purchase of any of Nortel's assets.

The Associated Press reported that some of NTP's patent claims were thrown out in the wake of the RIM settlement, but three patents were upheld.

In 2007, NTP, citing eight patents, sued service providers AT&T, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile and Verizon wireless. Those cases haven't yet been resolved.

The mobile phone industry has been racked with intellectual property litigation for years. Qualcomm squared off against Broadcom and Nokia for years in lengthy litigation.

NTP traces its origins to work carried out by Thomas J. Campana, who had done work for AT&T in transmitting messages from computers to wireless devices. Donald E. Stout, a lawyer, worked with Campana before the latter died in 2004 before he could cash in on his work. Stout continues as president of NTP and has been pressing the cases against the mobile carriers and smartphone makers.

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